Thursday, November 7, 2019

Halloween, Minecraft, and the Mushification of Hell

This is me many years ago dressed like Dilbert cartoon character "Phil, Prince of Insufficient Light." Note my schnazzy homemade pitchspoon.  Maybe you can tell I do not like Halloween.

My husband won’t let me keep a Styrofoam gravestone in our front yard year-round with the words “Momento Mori” (Latin for “Remember you must die”) on it. So I am thinking he also will not let me decorate the garage door for Halloween with blown up posters of the painting masters’ works on hell.

I searched for some online and they are pretty horrifying and graphic. Also, everyone is naked, which does not work well during Trick or Treat.

Actually, in my draft of this blog post, I included the most benign of these old paintings of hell and my family told me they were too disturbing to include.

I recently learned that there was a somewhat controversial hell-like region of the videogame Minecraft called “the Nether.” In my experience, that game is pretty tame, so would this be problematic? I checked it out. The Minecraft Nether has lots of comfortable space to move around. There are fire squares and monsters  like “zombie pigmen” and “chicken jockeys” that, with a little practice and a few official cheats, you can easily avoid. 

In my opinion, the problem with this, is that unlike actual hell, the Nether is a place you choose to go to and can leave whenever you want, assuming you find where you left your portal. It’s not that bad. Monsters try to kill you, but they do that in “the Overworld,” too. 

Returning to Halloween, representations of devils can be scary, but then the mask is just removed. There are also all these cutesy, sexy, devil costumes for women, which at least are closer to how the painters saw hell in terms of nudity. 

If Satan’s best and most powerful tool to nab souls is the idea that he and hell do not exist (see C.S. Lewis’ classic book, The Screwtape Letters,) then convincing people that hell isn’t so bad has to be his second best.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Friday, May 31, 2019

NEWS FAST!!! An Experiment

Nine days - no news for me. What would happen? Would the world crumble to dust? Would I crumble to dust? More the latter than the former, thankfully.

My daily news schedule:
Catch the NPR Morning Edition headlines while exercising shortly after rising. 6 minutes? (Tells me how liberals perceive the world.)

Marketplace Morning Report while making the bed and getting dressed. 7 minutes? (Tells me how secular economists perceive the world.)

EWTN News Nightly from the previous night while preparing breakfast. 22 minutes? (Tells me how the US Catholic bishops perceive the world.)

Church Militant's Vortex, Headlines and the Download as they are released throughout the day. 30 minutes total? (Tells me how the experts monitoring the Catholic Church scandals perceive the world.)

Lately I have been enjoying Anglican Unscripted videos when available. (Tells me how conservative Anglicans perceive the scandals in their church and about the culture wars in Canada and the United Kingdom.)

This really hurt. Don't try it at home (ha, ha.) Ouch. Really. My theory that the world as we know it would crumble if I wasn't paying attention was proven false. (Thankfully.) However, I realized how much of my daily routine revolves around taking in news from all these sources. What else are you going to make your bed to besides the daily stock market report? 

I found I had to substitute something in my routine for the hole this left. I listened to a lot of classical music. That was nice but not as nice. It did force me to listen to some really interesting educational stuff I don't make enough time for.

Also interesting, when I did stumble upon news during this fast and heard a few words or saw a few lines it felt really repulsive. Like, you guys are still talking about THAT?! It was like rolling in the mud after taking a shower. 

+++ Update+++

As of several weeks later, for the reason mentioned above, I still have not resumed listening to public radio. And I am still floundering around without a new routine.

Menacing Masonry

Check out this (admittedly blurry) picture of Sojourner House, a homeless shelter run by Catholic Charities in  Eau Claire, WI. In the background you can see the Masonic Lodge peeking menacingly over the top. Location, location, location. 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

St. Cecilia, Then and Now

St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Wisconsin Dells. 

The patron saint of musicians meets modern technology.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

HOW MANY Babies????

My Democrat friends and relatives are starting to get all giddy about the abundance of presidential candidate options that party is presenting now. Strong opinions are being formed.

“He fixes potholes, kisses babies. You know I love the way his wife dresses.” 
-- “Thank God for Governor Pilate,” from Cotton Patch Gospel

None of these things matter, though, if . . . abortion. 

Pro-choicers, in my experience, tend to deny the almost incomprehensible and mind-blowing abortion numbers. Let's do some math and see what we get.

I went to this abortion counter site.  At the time I visited the site it put the number of abortions in the US, since Roe v Wade (1973,) at 61,182,229 babies. That is 61 MILLION babies aborted, in this country alone.

Here is some confirmation of that number’s accuracy.

Confirmation of the 61 million abortions number from Guttmacher Institute (the research arm of Planned Parenthood.)

I used these 2019 state population figures. Then I went population shopping for a way to illustrate this huge number.

The 2018 population of the entire US was 326,766,748 so that abortion figure calculates out to 18.7% of the current US population - almost one fifth. Get ready, this isn’t going to be pretty.

I started with the states with the least population (took me forever.)


Total State Population in 2018
61,182,229 abortions minus state pop =
next up

Summary: Since Roe v Wade in 1973, the number of unborn babies aborted is equal to the entire current population of the 27 states listed above, and including over half of the population of Alabama.

Compare that to the worst genocides the world has recorded. This history site claims the worst massacre in history was of up to 40 million Slavs killed by the Soviets between 1939 and 1945.

50,000,000 to 80,000,000 died in World War II  throughout the entire world.
(Worldwide since 1980, according to the abortion counter website, 1.5 BILLION babies have been aborted.)

“Roughly 1,264,000 American soldiers have died in the nation's wars--620,000 in the Civil War and 644,000 in all other conflicts.”

I have been accused of being a one issue voter (by people who deny the above figures, which I have laid out for you, with explanation and proof, to the best and most honest of my ability.) Until we put an end to abortion, climate change and potholes do not seem that important. 

I am all for a healthy environment, but we have to deal with the problem of abortion first.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

What is Love?

Paradise by the Dashboard Light - GLEE Version

What is Love?

People die -- but so far, not my people. I am untested in grief.

What if someone close to me dies and I don’t cry? What if I believe they have cast off the mud-caked overalls of this life’s reward-less toil and are cleaned up for a rockin’ party with Our Lord and the saints in a better world?

Do I have an obligation to feel sad?

What if they live far away and the impact of their death on my day to day life is lightly felt? What if I don’t cry? What if I don’t notice much? Does that mean I do not love them?

Theologians tell us that love is not an emotion.

If love doesn’t prove itself through feelings, though, how does it prove itself? When I tell my family members I love them, is it true? Am I lying to them? How would I know without consulting my feelings?

The Light Switch Theory of Love

On or off. I love you or I do not love you. You love me or you do not love me. Pass or fail. (See video above.)

Is there any rubric for grading? A study guide? As we like to believe of all religious tests, this is certainly graded on the curve anyway, right? Right?

"Love is a verb, not a destination." -- my daughter, age 20

Saying “I love you” isn't indicative of a completed process from which one can move on to other challenges and pursuits. "Now that I love you (check that one off the list) I can work on something else, maybe learn French or join a canasta club."

Saying “I love you” is, itself, an Act of Love -- an act of building love, of giving love, of loving.

“O my God, I love you above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because you are all good and worthy of all my love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured.” -- The Act of Love, a traditional Catholic prayer

When you say this prayer to God you aren’t producing a finished product. I love you, God. Done. Saying the prayer is in itself an act of creating and giving and growing in the ability to love God.

In this way, you become what you say.  Imagine the effect of unloving words.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Other People’s Husbands

(Rant warning)

What should your relationship be with other people’s husbands? Should you hold their hands and pray with them? Should this be a required activity? Do you have the right to decide if you are going to hold another person’s hand or not? How about total strangers?

The latest attack from the “Church of Nice” that is my home parish was a homily from Father saying we should hold hands during the Our Father at Mass. Most people do this already but I have not, choosing to just fold my hands in front of me instead.

He actually had an interesting explanation for why “the Church” asks us to do this (I have heard no such universal proclamation.) Remember when Amalek led the Israelites into battle and they were only winning when Moses’ arms were raised but it took a really long time so Aaron and Hur held up Moses' arms all day until sundown and the Israelites were victorious? (Exodus 17: 8 - 13) Well, apparently, when we hold hands during the Our Father we are encouraging our weaker brothers and sisters in Christ by holding their arms up. Or maybe they are encouraging us by holding our arms up . . . ?


On rereading this passage I wonder if Aaron and Hur looked all dignified, standing still and stoic under Moses’ arms all day. I giggle to imagine the squirmy reshifting that I would have done in their place. Balance Moses’ arm on one shoulder, then the other, maybe on my head. I imagine resting my arm on my neighbor’s head as I solemnly pray the Our Father. Well Aaron and Hur’s arms would have gotten tired, too, you know.

But I digress.

Until the recent announcement about this new expectation for proper community participation at the Holy Sacrifice, I preferred to leave the communal hand holding to those who are comfortable with it. But lately I have been rather a thorn in the side of my pastor, asking him to do this or that to appease my traditionalist sensitivities. The heresy level on this is low so I choose to shut up and obey with a smile on my face (and snarky blog post.)

If I teach you anything in this blog, My Children, may it be this. “Always take the easy ones.” Your God will ask many difficult things of you before you die. Some you will likely and unfortunately say “no” to.  If He asks you something small and easy, at LEAST do that. If you obey on enough of the little ones maybe it will make up for one of the big ones you really can’t man up for yet.

So what is my problem with holding the hand of the person next to me when I pray? Well sometimes that person is a snotty, sick five year old (through no fault of their own.) That is just unpleasant. But this brings us to the topic of what you should do with other people’s husbands.

You should not hold the hands of other people’s husbands in the name of some vague communal uplifting. Good reasons I can think of for holding the hands of someone else’s husband . . . 

  1. They have fallen into a pit and you are the only person around to pull them out. Their wife is out buying groceries or something. 
  2. They are dying and you are offering them final prayers and spiritual consolation in the absence of a priest while their wife is out buying groceries.
  3. Um . . .  that’s all I got.

This squeamishness also keeps me out of community theater where similar problems exist.

And do NOT get me started on random, co-ed, Holy Thursday foot-washing lines. . .

(End rant.)

Sand - A Poem

Before the Big Bang and/or the Garden of Apples, you blueprinted my body, anticipated my soul.
From the beginning of time to this time.

I am a sand dune, laid grain on grain by all of man's history, distant and obscure.
Recent generations have shaped me with a more effective, firmer shove, building short-lived castles upon me and digging protective heffalump holes.

Now, in my here time I am finally allowed to offer my voluntary submission to the often unnoticeable waves of movement and erosion.
Sometimes a stream of sand three grains wide plummeting into the tiny air hole of a buried crab.
Sometimes the whomp of a big wave (across the head), like a bulldozer, with the sense of the Creator's touch - skin to skin as the mound moves.

Later, fire will turn my sand to crystal and I shall reflect the light - as the Garden of Apples intended.

The World Waits for You, O Lord, . . .

The world waits for you, O Lord, . . .
   in its way.

Dolphins swim and jump.
Squirrels gather and giggle.
We wed, we bed, we birth,
   we whimper, we whine, we wail.
We wait in our way.

We watch, we wonder.
We wait in our way.
Whatever, whenever.

The world waits for you, O Lord, . . . 
in its way.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Moving Up To a "Five"

In my younger days I worked at a soup kitchen in New York City. Sometimes, full of youthful fearlessness, I would help the guys with the line outside. That involved standing out in the heat or cold with the homeless people who were waiting to go inside for their meal and trying to keep things calm, friendly and orderly.

Far from being dead weight out there, maybe because I was female, I noticed that I could make the line flow in the direction I wanted, around corners and against a wall,  just by standing strategically in various places near the line. This worked because of the natural distance we keep from other people. It was pretty foolproof and required no words or argument.

Bringing that experience to the current Catholic Church crisis, I realize that, again, simple things I do with my body can have a big impact on those around me. No words or argument needed.

On the modernist “zero” to traditionalist “ten” scale, my parish is probably a “four.” There is nothing blatantly offensive going on but the predominant temperature is definitely luke warm and no one has much to say about sin or the afterlife or sexual ethics.

Many of my fellow parishioners are losing their faith in the hierarchy and in the sacraments. Even if the hierarchy is a mess, as it currently is, Eucharist should be enough to keep people from leaving the Church. So why isn’t it? Maybe it is because we are showing less respect for the Real Presence in our liturgy.

Here are some simple things I have been doing to silently encourage others to respect and better believe in the True Presence in their midst:

  • Dressing up for Mass instead of being more comfortable in jeans
  • Kneeling and praying before Mass until the priest enters and we stand
  • Kneeling in my pew after receiving Eucharist instead of standing like most of the parishioners
  • Receiving on the tongue. This is logistically hard, especially when receiving from  untrained Eucharistic ministers. And I have accidentally “licked” a lot of priests too. It feels troubling like bad, messy, kissing.  I do it anyway.

My challenge now during Advent is to try to kneel in my pew for five minutes after Sunday Masses. This sounds so small but it is hard and I believe it is powerful for others to see. I usually have after-Mass business to conduct with other people there that are in the process of leaving. The church is abuzz with chatter at that time. Even though it hasn’t been a very prayerful exercise so far (I need to learn to do it without looking at my watch) but it is a deliberate call to fellow parishioners to show more deserved respect for Jesus, still-present in our bodies. A call to shut up, or at least take the conversations into the narthex so others can pray if they want.

I have been adding these things one at a time over the last few years. Slowly and casually. The point is not to play the holier-than-thou game.

In addition, my homeschooled son started altar serving at most of the daily Masses. At one point someone found some bells in a closet and he asked the priest if he could ring them at daily Mass, which was approved over some objections from parishioners. Then he served for some feast day Masses and rang the bells for a different crowd and other altar servers started doing it too. A year later, the bells now are a normal part of all our Masses and when they aren’t rung it feels funny.

These are small things but, hey, maybe in time they can help our parish move up to a “five.”